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Kings Park school board to vote on budget

Kings Park High School at 200 East Main

Kings Park High School at 200 East Main St. houses students grades 9 through 12. It is the only high school in the Kings Park Central School District. (June 27, 2012) Credit: Fran Berkman

The Kings Park board of education will vote Tuesday night on an $82.9 million budget proposal for 2013-14 that carries a tax increase that falls just below the district's state tax cap.

The levy increase of 3.5 percent does not pierce the 3.63 percent maximum allowed.

The average tax payer with a $6,000 assessed home valuation would pay an estimated $7,920.99 -- a $267.86 increase from the current school year.

The budget closes the $626,902 gap the district was facing, Superintendent Susan Agruso said, after restored state aid reduced what had been a deficit of $2.1 million.

The budget was closed by reducing 6.4 teaching positions in physical education, music, math, science, social studies, English language arts and art.

When asked whether the board considered piercing the tax cap to maintain the teaching positions, Agruso said the board looked at its budget experiences in the past.

"We would have had to have a tax levy at 4.5 percent. The last time we had a tax levy over 4 percent was in 2008, and that got 58 percent of the vote," she said. "You'd have to get 60 percent to pierce the cap, so that's not looking too good."

The job cuts will mostly impact William T. Rogers Middle School, the district's only middle school, said Agruso, adding, "There will be some reduction in physical education, art and music at the elementary school level . . . mostly because of declining enrollment."

Agruso said all instructional programs were maintained.

"That's what the board told us to do -- keep the programs. So we raised class size at the middle school," she said. Elementary school class sizes should not be affected due to declining enrollment, she said.

Board member Tom Locascio said it was "very difficult" to put a budget together in "challenging fiscal times," but maintaining instruction was most important.

"That's our first priority -- providing education to the students of Kings Park that will prepare them for the next step in their lives," he said. "We made every effort to minimize reductions in staff while maintaining the academic programs that our students deserve."

Instructional salaries and benefits are the largest component of the budget at 52.85 percent, with nonteaching salaries and benefits at 20.67 percent. Agruso said contributions to the teacher retirement system were a major impact, at about $1.5 million -- a 38 percent increase from 2012-2013.

Residents will vote on the budget on May 21.

Katy Cardinale, 40, who has sons at Fort Salonga Elementary School and Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School, said she was "OK" with the budget proposal "because the price of everything is going up."

"I know how hard they work to try and keep things very tight," she said. "The teacher contracts, retirement costs, insurance costs go up every year."

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